Rio de Janeiro:
A win in the opening match of the Olympics after a long gap of 12 years, still Indian men’s hockey team will have to lift their game by a notch if they want to challenge the might of reigning Olympic champions Germany in their second pool ‘B’ match on Monday.
India were made to toil hard by minnows Ireland yesterday to register a fighting 3-2 win, their first in the sporting extravaganza in 12 years.
Going by world rankings, India (5th) were the clear favourites to dominate the match against Ireland (12th). Expectedly, the PR Sreejesh-led side started on a bright note and played to their potential in the majority of the match but they handed the initiative to their opponents in the final quarter.
While dragflickers, Rupinder Pal Singh (2 goals) and VR Raghunath (1 goal) were bang on target with penalty corners, the forwardline was not upto the mark, missing plenty of scoring chances.
Sreejesh was alert as usual in front of the Indian goal, making quite a few saves but the defence, their perennial problem, was found wanting when the Irish had put relentless pressure in the final quarter, thereby conceding as many as eight penalty corners.
But come tomorrow, the Indians cannot afford to commit the same mistakes against the Germans, who will be eyeing a hat-trick of Olympic golds having pocketed the yellow metal in the last two Games in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London.
Their record against Germany at the Olympics also doesn’t go in India’s favour. India last won a match against Germany in the Olympics way back in the 1996 Atlanta Games where they registered a 3-0 win in the opening match.
In Sydney and Athens, India never played the Germans as they featured in different pools. However four years ago in London, Germany comprehensively beat India 5-2. In the recent past India have had mixed results against the Germans. India recently played Germany in the the FIH Champions Trophy in London, where the Sreejesh-led side won a historic silver.